The Calgary Flames bested the Winnipeg Jets in four games and punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs last week. Chaos ensued, and the originally eight ranked Flames jumped up to the sixth seed, which means they will face off against the Dallas Stars in Round 1 action beginning tonight.
The Stars will be the home team for this series, meaning the Flames will have to contend with the Stars having last change for the first two games. However, out of all the potential matchups from the round robin stage, the Stars look to be the best for the Flames. We’re guilty of beating that drum last year before the Colorado series though, so it’s important to note that all bets are off in the playoffs.
The Flames and Stars battled three times in the regular season with the Flames winning the season series 2-1-0. The Stars were actually the fifth placed team in the West based on points at the time of the pause but beat out the Oilers for the last bye due to points percentage.
This has all the makings of a long, hard-fought series. Here’s everything you need to know about the Stars: how they play, their strengths and weaknesses, what the Flames need to shut down, and which areas they can exploit.
POssession & Shot Generation
This is going to come up a lot, but it’s basically the way the Stars play. They don’t generate a ton of shots, but they allow even less.
The Stars were underwater possession wise in the regular season, but made up for it with top-10 finishes in higher quality chances. They ranked eighth in SCF% and seventh in HDCF%, and were top-10 in generating those types of shots, as well as top-10 in limiting those types of shots .
They’re a stingy team that doesn’t give up a lot, and their opponents might outshoot them in a game but chances are they won’t have the better quality.
Actual & Expected Goals
The Stars scored significantly fewer goals than expected in the regular season. One reason is their abysmal shooting percentage which we’ll discuss later on, but even so, the Stars were a middle-of-the-pack team when it came to expected goals. However, they were fourth in the NHL in terms of expected goals allowed which caused their expected goals percentage to be fifth in the league.
It’s an impressive number, and it speaks to how defensively tight this team was in the regular season. In comparison to the Stars’ 116 xGA, the Flames finished at 131 xGA on the year. On the other hand, the Flames’ xGF was 133, good for seventh in the NHL.
In terms of actual goals scored, the Stars were terrible at it this season. They finished 30th in the NHL for total goals scored at 5v5. With talent like Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov among others, you’d expect them to score a lot more goals than they did. Is this due to their systems not lending themselves well to the way these players play, or was it bad luck? The Flames hope it’s the latter, no doubt. On the other side of the coin, as expected, the Stars were the polar opposite: they finished with the second fewest goals allowed at 5v5 this season.
If the Flames want to get through this series, they’re going to need to figure out how to penetrate the Stars’ defense and get pucks past their two incredible goaltenders.
The Stars’ issues scoring goals may be explained by them finishing with the 29th worst shooting percentage at 5v5. However, the Flames finished with the 23rd ranked 5v5 shooting percentage at 7.64%, so there’s probably room for both teams to improve in that area.
Where the Stars shone bright was in goal. Thanks to one of, if not the best tandem in the NHL with Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, the Stars finished with the second best save percentage in the league at .933. In comparison, the Flames were right in the middle at .919, good for 15th in the league.
The Stars’ 5v5 PDO was basically at 1 though, which indicates their combined shooting and save percentages were on par with what you’d expect from a normal NHL team. Even if they start scoring more goals, you’d expect their goalies to allow a little bit more to make up for it.
The Flames had the 23rd ranked PDO at .995, which usually means there’s a bit of positive regression to come on their shooting and save percentages.
|Dallas Stars||PP%||PK%||Penalties |
Special teams wasn’t an area of strength for the Stars this season. They were beasts at creating high quality opportunities at 5v5, which is definitely a concern for the Flames, but the way the Flames have executed on both sides of special teams this postseason swings the edge in Calgary’s favour.
The Stars finished with the 13th ranked powerplay with a 21.1% conversion rate, the 17th ranked penalty kill with just under 80% success, and they were below average in both drawing and taking penalties.
They’re not an overly disciplined team, they don’t draw a ton of penalties, and struggle on both sides of odd man scenarios. This is a clear area where the Flames can exploit the Stars, and use their man advantage to put some pucks past Bishop.
Penalty Kill: Flames
This will be a tighter series than people may think. The Stars are a very good defensive team, but struggle to score. On the other hand, the Flames really found some offensive sparks up and down their lineup against the Jets, and are much better on the powerplay. If Cam Talbot can play as well as he did versus Winnipeg, the Flames should be able to win this series. Regardless, this will be a very tough grind, and whichever team advances will be very battle tested for Round 2.